‘Ghost Ship’ Resurfaced After Being Lost at Sea for 9 Years
Posted: January 2, 2024 | Last updated: January 2, 2024
A container vessel disappeared in 2009, and authorities were shocked to see the " ghost ship " reappear nine years later off the coast of Myanmar. Her disappearance and subsequent reappearance were shrouded in mystery. Read on to learn more about this spooky reappearance!
The 'ghost ship' reappears
The container ship, Sam Ratulangi PB 1600, was sailing along the Pacific Ocean in 2009 when she mysteriously disappeared. The last time she was seen, she was sailing off the coast of Taiwan and bearing an Indonesian flag. After all contact with the ship was lost, authorities believed she had been lost to the ocean .
Nine years later, on August 30, 2018, the ship reappeared in the Indian Ocean, wedged along a sandbar located 11 kilometers off the shore of Myanmar. Fishermen from the village Thama Seitta noticed the ship and went to inspect it. What they saw caused them to contact the coastal police.
The Navy came to inspect it
After the coastal police were contacted, they reached out to the Myanmar Navy who arrived at the ghost ship for an inspection. What they came to observe was the same as what the fishermen had seen - nothing. There was no crew, no cargo, and no signs of life anywhere on the ship.
"No crew or cargo was found on the ship. It was quite puzzling how such a big ship turned up in our waters," said U Ne Win Yangon , a Myanmarese MP. What is most curious about the ship is that she was still in working order when it was found.
Ultimately, the authorities had no idea where she had come from or how she had gotten there.
Theories about where the ship came from
The ship, which was built in 2001, was approximately 177 meters long and 28 meters wide, with a weight of about 26,510 tons. How a ship of this size could randomly appear one morning along the shores of Myanmar remains a mystery, one that has resulted in a lot of speculation.
The General Secretary of the Independent Federation of Myanmar Seafarers, U Aung Kyaw Linn, said, "In my opinion, the ship was recently abandoned. There must be a reason [why she was abandoned]." Theories that the crew fell victim to dangerous waters or even pirates circulated but none were ever verified. Fortunately, answers were to come.
Two cables were found latched to the ship's head, and authorities discovered a tugboat named Independence about 50 miles off the coast of Myanmar. The 13 Indonesian crew members on board were questioned, and they said the tugboat had been towing the vessel since August 13th. They planned to bring her to a factory in Bangladesh that would dismantle and salvage the ship.
More from us: Archaeologists Were Amazed to Find This Odd Artifact on a Massive Shipwreck
However, when some of the cargo vessel's cables broke in bad weather, the crew decided to abandon her. Authorities were relieved to finally have some answers to clear up the mystery of the ghost ship .
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Sailors stumble on ‘ghost ship’ drifting in Atlantic Ocean hundreds of miles from land
The boat was discovered some 800 miles away from bermuda, article bookmarked.
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Matt Rutherford and a colleague from the Ocean Research Project were sailing in the Atlantic Ocean in 2013 when they made a startling discovery : an abandoned ship floating some 800 miles beyond Bermuda.
Earlier this week, the Ocean Research Project released a video showing what happened when Mr Rutherford and his colleague spotted the boat and moved closer to investigate the situation.
“This is one awfully abandoned sailboat,” Mr Rutherford is heard saying in the footage.
Mr Rutherford decided to to go and see if there was anybody on the boat, saying he hoped he wouldn’t “find any dead bodies or anything.”
The interior of the boat, with personal effects strewn about
He did not find anyone on the boat dead or alive, and instead was left to wonder how an upscale boat that presumably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars new came to be completely abandoned and left floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
“This is absolutely crazy by the way,” Mr Rutherford says in the video. “800 miles from Bermuda, 1,500 miles from the US, standing on a very nice Swan 48, in the middle of the ocean.”
The boat appeared to have been abandoned quickly. When Mr Rutherford and his colleague came aboard and began looking around, they found clothes and other personal belongings were strewn about the main cabin. Mr Rutherford and his colleague initially tried to tow the boat with them, but only made it 50 miles before realising they needed to cut the other boat loose.
The Daily Mail reported that certain online aficionados believe that Mr Rutherford’s colleague on the journey was Alan McGettigan of the Royal Irish Yacht Club, though that detail is as of now unconfirmed.
Nearly a decade after the discovery of the boat, little remains known about how or why it came to be abandoned in the middle of the ocean.
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Mysterious bermuda triangle 'ghost ship' discovered 95 years after it vanished.
Overnight Editor, HuffPost
The long-lost wreck of the SS Cotopaxi ― a steamship referenced in movies, memes and myth ― has been discovered off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida almost a century after vanishing near the Bermuda Triangle .
“It was incredibly exciting,” Michael Barnette, the diver, author and researcher who helped find the wreck, said via email. “I’ve done a countless number of shipwreck dives but this one truly stood out.”
Barnette is the lead explorer of “Shipwreck Secrets,” a new Science Channel series that will feature the discovery of the Cotopaxi in its premiere episode.
The SS Cotopaxi set off from Charleston, South Carolina and was bound for Havana, Cuba on Nov. 29, 1925, and then vanished. No trace of the ship or its crew of 32 were ever identified, which made the vessel ripe for both folklore and pop culture.
In Steven Spielberg’s 1977 classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the Cotopaxi reappears in the middle of the Gobi Desert:
And in recent years, social media memes have suggested the Cotopaxi had suddenly appeared, empty and intact, as a “ghost ship” floating off the coast of Cuba. That one was passed around so often that Snopes published an entire page debunking it .
As it turned out, the ship wasn’t quite missing.
Barnette and his team combed through historical documents, including paperwork from the ship’s insurer, to find a previously unknown distress call sent by the Cotopaxi on Dec. 1, 1925. By mapping the ship’s route, the coordinates of the signal and other hints from the documents, they honed in on a site discovered 35 years ago known as the “Bear Wreck.”
The ship at the site had never been identified; however, Barnette said the evidence in the paperwork combined with what was found during dives at the site of the Bear Wreck led to one conclusion: It was the SS Cotopaxi.
“There were several elements that confirmed the identity such as the dimensions of the ship, its length and the measurement of the boiler,” he said. “Also, I looked at the general orientation of the machinery. It was all consistent with the information we knew about the Cotopaxi.”
While St. Augustine is not located within the so-called Bermuda Triangle, the ship’s mysterious disappearance in the general vicinity led some to connect the ship to the legendary region. The Bermuda Triangle is a loosely defined portion of the Atlantic stretching roughly from Miami to Bermuda to Puerto Rico and some believe ships and planes are more likely to mysteriously vanish there.
“Personally, I believe it’s all folklore,” Barnette said.
The U.S. Coast Guard does not recognize the area or its nickname and NOAA’s National Ocean Service said “ environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances .” The agency stated:
“The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place. This is true all over the world. There is no evidence that mysterious disappearances occur with any greater frequency in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other large, well-traveled area of the ocean.”
In 2018, one scientist claimed the area could be more dangerous ― just not for supernatural reasons. University of Southampton oceanographer Simon Boxall posited that storms from the north and south could meet in the area, leading to rogue waves of up to 100 feet .
“Shipwreck Secrets” debuts at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Feb. 9 on the Science Channel, followed by the premiere of a second new series, “Curse of the Bermuda Triangle” at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
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The buried ship found on an English estate
They began at first light. The strongest of the king's guard, sinews straining, rough ropes chafing, hauled the heavy oak ship from the river on to the shore. And then, with the rising sun slowly burning off the chill morning mist, they heaved the vessel over the plain and to the foot of the hill. The crowds on the slope watched silently as they inched it up to the summit and the graveyard reserved for royal descendants of the one-eyed god. When the craft had been manoeuvred into the trench prepared for it, mourners laid the grave goods in the burial chamber in its centre. Then a mound was raised over it. And there the ship lay, moored fast in the East Anglian earth but journeying through time until, 13 centuries later on the eve of World War Two, a man called Basil Brown discovered it.
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The incredible find, dubbed "Britain's Tutankhamun", is the subject of The Dig, a new Netflix film adapted from John Preston's novel of the same name. It stars Ralph Fiennes as self-taught archaeologist Brown and Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty, the landowner who employed him to excavate the mysterious barrows on her estate at Sutton Hoo overlooking the River Deben in Suffolk.
The Dig stars Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, the self-taught archaeologist who first made the discovery underneath the mysterious mounds at Sutton Hoo (Credit: Alamy)
Pretty, a widow who was interested in spiritualism, had a feeling about the mounds. They were thought to be of Viking origin. A houseguest had once seen a ghostly figure among them, and there were long-told local legends of buried treasure.
Brown was a Suffolk man who had left school at the age of 12. He had been a farm labourer and an insurance agent but had also taught himself several languages, astronomy and archaeology. That led to him being employed as an archaeologist by Ipswich Museum, and it was the museum that recommended him to Pretty.
He began in June 1938 with some of the smaller mounds, and found evidence that they had been raided by grave robbers but also a bronze disc suggesting they might be earlier than Viking-era. When he started on the largest mound, in the summer of 1939, as war clouds gathered, he quickly came across lumps of iron that he identified as ship's rivets. And then he found it – an astonishing 90-ft (27.4m) vessel, big enough to accommodate up to 20 rowers on each side. The timber itself had dissolved into the soil along with any human remains but a clear imprint remained: a ghost ship more than a millennium old.
Basil Brown's find literally caused the history books to be rewritten.
Other ship burials had been excavated but nothing of this size. Before this, a 78-ft (23.8m) Viking vessel in Norway, discovered in 1880, had been the biggest. Because of previous finds elsewhere, Brown knew there might be a cargo of grave goods and on 14 June, he found what he thought could be the burial chamber – a wooden hut-like structure, now disintegrated, which had been constructed in the centre of the ship. But by now the men from the British Museum and Cambridge University had got wind of his great find and, just days later, muscled in on it. Before he could explore further, he was sidelined and relegated to basic labouring. The professionals couldn't have a local man – a mere amateur – dabbling. Why, the fellow didn't even have a degree!
A team of archaeologists was brought in and it was one of them, Peggy Piggott, who, on 21 July, just two days after her arrival, found the first piece of gold. Then she found another. And before long they had uncovered a glittering haul of more than 250 items for which the expression "treasure trove" barely seems adequate. There were feasting vessels and drinking horns and elaborate jewellery, a lyre and a sceptre, a sword, stones from Asia and silverware from Byzantium and coins from France (which helped date the hoard).
A half-size replica of the longship (pictured) has been created, but a project to build a working full-size replica is still in the works (Credit: Alamy)
There was a gold buckle engraved with intricately interwoven snakes and beasts – a piece so extraordinary that the British Museum's keeper of Medieval antiquities almost collapsed upon seeing it; jewelled shoulder clasps and belt fittings; a wonderful, ornate helmet with a full face-mask – the haunting visage of some ancient hero seeming to gaze out across the centuries.
What the discovery meant
Brown’s find literally caused the history books to be rewritten. The ship and its contents were, it transpired, from the Dark Ages, and the discovery illuminated those four centuries between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of the Vikings, about which so little was known. The Anglo-Saxons who ruled over England's various kingdoms during this time had been thought a crude and backward people – primitive almost – but here were exquisitely made items of great beauty. This was a society that valued skill, craft and art, and that traded with Europe and beyond.
And these relics of a sophisticated, lost civilisation turned up just as our own was being threatened with obliteration by the Nazis. The lead archaeologist gave a speech to visitors to the site, and had to shout to be heard above the roar of a Spitfire.
When author and journalist John Preston, whose book about the disgraced British politician Jeremy Thorpe, A Very English Scandal, was recently adapted into a hit TV series, discovered that Piggott, his aunt, had been involved in the excavation, he researched the story and immediately recognised what a rich seam it provided for a novelist. The Dig was published to acclaim in 2007. Robert Harris called it "a real literary treasure", and Ian McEwan proclaimed it "very fine, engrossing, exquisitely original".
Producer Ellie Wood, who has previously worked on a number of TV adaptations including Decline and Fall, Bleak House and The Line of Beauty, says she wanted to make a film version as soon as she read the manuscript of the novel in 2006, before it was even published.
As the ship is revealed, so are the inner lives of the people involved, and that's what seemed so powerful and original about the story to me – Ellie Wood
"It was incredibly cinematic," Wood tells BBC Culture. "As the ship is revealed, so are the inner lives of the people involved, and that's what seemed so powerful and original to me. I could feel the profound emotions of the characters, although they are unable to express them. All those simmering feelings kept in check by British reserve and the class structure. There was a Remains of the Day feel to it."
Moira Buffini, co-creator of the TV hit series Harlots, wrote the screenplay. "Ellie Wood sent me the book in 2011 and I read it and immediately thought, I have to write this," Buffini says. "It was that instant. You know you're on to a good thing when you feel like that about a project, and it doesn't happen that often.
This helmet is part of the wider Anglo-Saxon treasure trove unearthed at Sutton Hoo (Credit: Alamy)
"The book profoundly moved me. I just felt raw when I finished reading it. I think it conveys a feeling of the fragility of everything, including us. As I was writing the screenplay I came to think that the act of opening up the earth – of digging down to disinter the dead – in a way opens up everybody who is living."
Over the years, various actors have been linked to the film, including Cate Blanchett and then Nicole Kidman. Kidman reportedly had to pull out because of conflicting work commitments and Carey Mulligan stepped in at fairly short notice.
Wood says that, although it has taken a long time, her determination that The Dig would be made never faltered. "I think it was because of Basil Brown's story," she says. "Due to class and intellectual snobbery, his invaluable work went unrecognised for so long, and I felt it was really important that more people should know what he achieved."
The continuing mystery
Brown's name was not mentioned in British Museum's permanent display of the Sutton Hoo treasures until relatively recently. But although his crucial contribution is now acknowledged, there is much that remains uncertain about the ship burial. Who was it honouring? The lead candidate is Raedwald, a powerful regional leader who died around 624, and who was part of a dynasty that claimed descent from the Norse god Woden. He was the first English king to convert to Christianity, while also being cannily careful not to upset the pagan gods.
[After reading the screenplay for The Dig] I was just in tears… I can't quite tell you why, but it's something to do with the integrity of the people unearthing this thing which represents something to do with nationhood – Ralph Fiennes
And what exactly was the nature of the vessel? Was it a warship or more of a ship of state – a 7th-century Britannia? We may be in a better position to judge when a project to build a working full-size replica of the ship comes to fruition. It will give us a far better idea, for example, of exactly how it handles on the water. The Sutton Hoo Ship's Company aims to have its vessel built and ready to begin trials in three years, and hopes that The Dig will generate more interest in its undertaking.
The film is understated but powerfully affecting, with tremendous performances from both Fiennes and Mulligan. During a recent Q&A event for the film, Fiennes explained how he first read the screenplay on a plane “and at the end of it I was just in tears. I can't quite tell you why, but it's something to do with the integrity of the people unearthing this thing which represents something to do with nationhood."
And current circumstances mean its depiction of a world on the precipice of disaster resonates in a way unforeseen at the outset of this project.
"I do wonder if we all now have a keener sense of our own mortality, of our insignificance in the grand scheme of things," says Buffini. "But I think there's something very hopeful in the idea that we are links in an unbroken human chain. I gave Basil the line, 'From the first human handprint on a cave wall, we are part of something continuous'."
The Dig is on Netflix from 29 January.
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NEWS... BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
Mysterious ‘ghost ship’ found floating off Thai coast with no crew on board
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An abandoned ‘ghost ship’ has sunk off the coast of Thailand after being found floating at sea with no crew on board.
The mysterious vessel was spotted by oil rig workers in the Gulf of Thailand on January 6 and had been stripped of all identifying documents.
The 262ft tanker was named ‘Jin Shui Yuan 2’ in Chinese characters but is of unknown origins.
It was spotted about a hundred nautical miles from the mouth of Songkhla Lak.
However, the ship sank due to rough seas and strong winds on Sunday while the Thai navy was attempting to tow it to shore.
Authorities are now working to stop a one kilometre-wide oil leak that is emanating from the wreck from harming the environment and spreading to nearby holiday islands.
Buoys were also placed to mark the area where the ship had sunk and fishermen have been alerted to be careful while sailing.
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A notice has been issued to the shipowner to come forward and salvage the vessel within 15 days.
Captain Itthipat Gavinfuengfukul said: ‘We have been trying to bring the ship to shore, but it sank before we could reach it.
‘Buoys have been deployed at the point where it sank. The ship is 18 metres from the water’s surface and about 28 nautical miles from the coast of Sichon district.’
He added that the shipowner would have to pay to claim the tanker.
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Ghost ship washes ashore in Ireland after more than a year at sea
Public warned away from MV Alta, which ran aground on Cork coast during Storm Dennis
Abandoned by its crew, the cargo vessel made a lonely odyssey across the Atlantic, a ghost ship seemingly destined never to make port.
The 77-metre MV Alta drifted for over a year, skirting the Americas, Africa and Europe , rusting and derelict yet resolutely afloat.
Its voyage came to an end during Storm Dennis on Sunday when it ran aground near Ballycotton, a fishing village in County Cork, Ireland , overlooking the Celtic Sea. The Alta wedged itself on to rocks, apparently intact.
On Monday experts from the local council, the Irish coastguard and Ireland’s commissioner of wrecks were discussing what to do with a visitor that was drawing lots of attention.
“Cork county council is asking members of the public to stay away from the wreck location as it is situated on a dangerous and inaccessible stretch of coastline and is in an unstable condition,” the council said in a statement .
Environmental scientists who visited the area on Monday did not see visible pollution, the council said. It has asked a marine contractor to board the Alta – the next opportunity will be on Tuesday at around 7am, during low tide – for a closer inspection. “Any risk in relation to oil, other hazardous substances and pollution from the vessel will be evaluated.”
Built in 1976, the Alta was flagged in Tanzania, changed owner in 2017 and was sailing from Greece to Haiti in September 2018 when it become disabled about 1,380 miles (2,220km) south-east of Bermuda.
Unable to make repairs, the 10-strong crew was rescued by the US coastguard cutter Confidence, which brought the crew members to Puerto Rico. According to gCaptain , a maritime industry news site, the US coastguard contacted the ship’s owner to arrange a commercial tug to tow it to shore.
It was reportedly towed to Guyana only to be hijacked, with its subsequent fate unclear until August 2019 when a Royal Navy ice patrol ship, HMS Protector, encountered it in the mid-Atlantic, apparently unmanned.
Two days ago @hmsprotector discovered this apparently abandoned Merchant Vessel whilst mid-Atlantic. We closed the vessel to make contact and offer our assistance, but no one replied! Whilst investigations continue we’re unable to give you more detail on this strange event.🌊🚢🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/x29sB5IF06 — HMS Protector (@hmsprotector) September 2, 2019
It is thought to have later drifted up from Africa and past Spain to Ireland.
In ocean lore, the story of the ghost ship the Flying Dutchman is a myth dating from the 1700s. The Mary Celeste , in contrast, was real: it was found abandoned, heading for the strait of Gibraltar in 1872, the crew’s fate a mystery.
More recently, in 2006 the tanker Jian Seng was found off the coast of Queensland, Australia, without a crew, the identity of its owner and its origins unclear.
In 2016 a wooden houseboat washed ashore on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. Made with driftwood and polystyrene and fitted with solar panels, it turned out to have been built by Rick Small , a Canadian environmentalist who had given the boat away and had no idea how it ended up crossing the ocean unmanned.
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Ghost Ships and the Seven Seas
The maritime folklore of ghost ship, “Flying Dutchman” happens to be very popular and it has inspired hundreds of paintings, books, operas and movies. Are ghost ships only limited to the folklores and Halloween stories? In the world of modern maritime, the term ghost ship has a much more practical meaning.
Ghost ships are vessels floating with no living crew onboard. These abandoned vessels drift in the ocean and appear suddenly at some coast or are spotted midsea giving rise to a series of questions about ownership, crew safety, environmental hazard, security of state, etc. These vessels could have been abandoned under any unknown circumstances. Later these ships become subject to horror stories as these abandoned vessels have many unanswered questions, such as: What happened to the crew? From where did the vessel arrive? and many more attached to them. It is interesting to learn the reasons behind the abandonment of vessels which later turn up as ghost ships.
Making of a ghost ship
The most common and explained reason for ship abandonment in today’s maritime world is the inability of the ship owners to meet the operational expenses of the vessel. When the owners of the ship fail to pay for basic expenses including port fees, crew wages, and bunker expenses they abandon the ship along with the crew. The crew stays on board as abandoning will deprive them of their right to be paid. Due to weak laws of flag states, the jurisdiction becomes lengthy and unclear, pushing the crew to abandon the vessel. It has been noted that vessels are often abandoned in countries having less stringent shipping and immigration laws.
As per the International Maritime Organization data, since 2004, 438 ships worldwide have been abandoned by the ship owners with 5767 crew members being affected directly.
When a ship has lived its life, it has to be towed to the scrapyard for dismantling. Such ships waiting to be towed to the scrapyard sometimes drift away in high seas due to ocean current or rough weather. Due to lack of operational digital identification systems, it becomes nearly impossible to track these ships. These vessels going with the flow are sighted as ghost ships.
Top 5 Ghost ship stories of the modern age
In the year 2020, Beirut, Lebanon suffered a massive explosion taking 200 lives and injuring more than 6000 people. Behind this explosion was ghost ship MV Rhosus.
In 2013 MV RHOSUS was on its way to Mozambique when due to some mechanical emergency it made a port call to Beirut, Lebanon. The vessel was detained by the port state control of Lebanon as they found it unseaworthy. The owners went bankrupt and refused to communicate with the ship. The crew did not abandon the vessel for nearly one year and was finally repatriated home after local court orders were passed. The port authority seized the vessel on 4th Feb 2014 and cargo was shifted to a port warehouse. MV RHOSUS after being abandoned by its Russian owner turned into a ghost ship for 4 years and ultimately sank in February 2018. On 4th August 2020, a fire broke out at the warehouse where the cargo of MV Rhosus was stored and a massive explosion happened, destroying the port of Beirut.
Read more news articles on MV RHOSUS in our Maritime News section.
ELIAS or MV ALTA
In the year 2019, HMS Protector spotted a derelict-looking vessel floating in the mid-Atlantic. The vessel was later identified as ELIAS (former MV ALTA) and its dark past was revealed. The ship had undergone several name changes and was sailing as ELIAS towards Haiti in 2018. The ship’s engine had failed and she raised a distress call. The US coast guard rescued the crew onboard ELIAS and the ship was abandoned. The ship sailed as a ghost ship for nearly a year in the Atlantic before being spotted by HMS Protector . On February 16, 2020, the ghost ship suddenly appeared on the coast of Ireland, Ballyandreen, Cork. Storm Dennis had agrounded the ship where its wreckage still remains. There have been several stories regarding ELIAS’s past but none could be verified as the vessel’s ownership is yet to be determined.
With the help of FleetMon, the radio broadcast Quarks produced a story on ghost ship ELIAS broadcasted by the German radio station WDR (German language only). Listen to the radio broadcast .
A ghost ship anchored for more than a year in the Gulf of Siam, Thailand. This ghost ship was cruise vessel OCEAN DREAM that was abandoned by its owners. Multiple owners had exchanged hands before Runfeng Ocean Deluxe Cruises saved it from the scrapyard. The company operated the vessel since 2012. It was abandoned in the year 2015. OCEAN DREAM remained a ghost vessel before it capsized on February 27, 2016. By the year 2019, the wreckage above water was demolished and cleared from the site.
On October 1, 2017, the locals of Salloum Coast, Egypt found a ghost ship at their sea beach. Later the ship was identified as MV MARIA M but its flag and the owner still remain a mystery. The ghost ship didn’t look derelict as from the appearance of the vessel it can be said that the ship was operational till recent times. The owner and the last trade of the still being a mystery, stories started to make rounds that the ghost ship was involved in immigrant trafficking.
The most interesting of all ghost ships found in recent time is a steel hull fishing vessel discovered by Vietnamese fishermen in La Gi, Vietnam. The vessel identity could not be discovered but several Chinese characters were found on the stern and bow of the ship. It is assumed that the ship was abandoned a few days back before discovery, as the fishermen found the ship with deck lights ON. The ship’s galley was functional at the time of abandoning as cooking utensils were found in use. No personal belongings were found onboard. Under what circumstances the vessel was abandoned, what happened to the crew, who are the owners of the vessel etc. still remain a mystery. The fishermen had towed the vessel to La Gi where it stands anchored 2 miles off the coast.
The most recent incident of ghost ship sighting is from Penghu Islands, Taiwan. A general cargo vessel was found aground on the coast of Penghu Islands, Taiwan. It is suspected that the vessel was being towed away to the scrapyard and she might have broken off her towage. The ghost ships continue to haunt the maritime industry because vessel abandonment by owners adversely affects crew, environment, and safety at sea.
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What Are Eerie Ghost Ships and How Are They Impacting The Environment?
The mystery behind these haunting vessels isn't what you may think. learn about the eerie phenomenon of ghost ships and their impact on the environment..
The unnerving legend of the merchant ship Mary Celeste has persisted for more than 150 years. In late 1872, the ship left New York . About a month later, it was spotted near the Azores, just bobbing along. The crew on a passing ship sent out several unanswered signals. Sensing something was amiss, a few approached in a lifeboat.
The surprised sailors found the Mary Celeste abandoned. There were no signs of life — or death. The ship’s wheel was eerily spinning on its own, and everything was left in place. The captain’s logbook had a typical, mundane entry from 10 days prior. Food was safely stored. Weather gear was untouched. Historians still debate why the people vanished , and the Mary Celeste has come to exemplify “ghost ships.”
What Are Ghost Ships?
Ghost ships are vessels that are abandoned, sometimes intentionally. Environmental officials refer to them as abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs), and they warn they are an environmental threat and safety hazard. They also advise the number of ADVs are increasing, and it’s not just happening in the open seas but in crowded waterways.
Why Are There Ghost Ships in the Ocean?
Ghost ships have been seen in U.S. rivers, lakes, channels and coastal waters. Why would someone simply abandon a boat? Some boats are lost in hurricanes or other inclement weather. In some cases, a boat runs into mechanical trouble and is abandoned by the crew. But boats are often abandoned due to financial reasons .
Boat maintenance can cost 10 percent of the boat’s overall cost each year. Docking the boat in a slip can add on as much as $5,000 per year. When boats start needing work, some owners opt to abandon them rather than dispose of them properly.
Many boats in the past 50 years have been made of fiberglass , so they aren’t eligible for scrap metal recycling programs that could defray the cost of disposal. Instead, disposal costs deter some owners from properly discarding their vessel. Rather than pay, some owners avoid registering their boats with local authorities so they can simply abandon the boat without it being traced to them.
Intentionally abandoning a boat might involve tying it to a dock and sneaking away. Some boat owners might drive deep into a waterway and then leave it floating. Others might try to intentionally sink their boat. Local or Federal officials are then tasked with removing the vessel.
Read More: Preserved Sunken Ship Found in Shipwreck Alley After 120 Years
How Many Ghost Ships Are There?
State and federal agencies don’t always have the resources to fish abandoned boats from their waterways. In a federal survey , 14 U.S. coastal states reported they identified more than 5,600 ghost ships between 2013 to 2016. But only about 53 percent were removed.
Survey respondents said that budget woes weren’t the only reason they couldn’t recover ghost ships. Many states also had vague policies that made it unclear who should remove the vessel and under which conditions.
Fishing ghost ships out of waterways is costly. In 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to remove an oil-leaking boat from a waterway in Lake Tahoe.
The 40-foot boat was about 300 feet from shore, and authorities saw it as both an environmental and a safety hazard. It cost $20,000 to remove. They eventually identified the boat’s owner but learned he was recently deceased. His next of kin, not surprisingly, has no interest in paying for the boat to be properly disposed of.
Read More: Shackleton’s Ship Found After a Century-Long Search
Why Are Ghost Ships a Problem?
Environmentalists are worried about ghost ships because they don’t just float aimlessly like the Mary Celeste. Many ghost ships sink or run aground in shallow waters. And when they do, they can crush the environment around them. ADVs can destroy coral reefs, mangroves, marshlands, oyster habitats and wetlands.
Either while afloat or under the surface, ghost ships also damage the environment by releasing pollutants. ADVs have leaked chemicals, oils, paint, sewage and other toxins, all of which can contaminate the waters and harm fish, wildlife and their habitats.
Environmental officials also see ghost ships as a safety hazard . Other ships may not expect a sunken ship in a shallow waterway and they could collide. And ADVs that are still afloat can crash into boats, docks and other structures.
Read More: There is Still Time to Save the Coral Reefs
What Can Be Done About Them?
States are increasingly adopting new policies to deal with the ghost ship problem. Some recommend pilot programs that try to recycle fiberglass and increase the chance a boat owner will properly dispose of their unwanted vessel. Others want to develop more stringent registration programs so that boat owners can’t simply abandon their vessel without fear of being found out.
As for the Mary Celeste, the owner was never found. An investigation uncovered that the owner was the missing captain who also brought his wife and young daughter on the trip. With the owner having vanished into thin air, the ship was sold and put back into service. Many considered it a bad luck ship, and it passed through several owners.
In 1882, the Mary Celeste once again became a ghost ship, this time deliberately. The new owner intentionally rammed the ship into a coral reef near Haiti so he could collect insurance money on the cargo. The ship sank and was never recovered.
Read More: No One Knows How Many Shipwrecks Exist, So How Do We Find Them?
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Man Sentenced In 2016 Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire In Oakland, Calif., That Killed 36
Derick Almena was sentenced for a fire that swept through a converted warehouse in Oakland, Calif., killing 36 people. AP hide caption
Derick Almena was sentenced for a fire that swept through a converted warehouse in Oakland, Calif., killing 36 people.
A man who operated a warehouse-turned-artist collective in Oakland, Calif., that caught fire in 2016, killing 36 people, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. But with credit for time served and good behavior, Derick Almena is expected to serve just 18 months at home wearing an ankle monitor.
Almena was the primary leaseholder for the Bay Area space known as the Ghost Ship, which officials found had no smoke detectors or sprinklers and contained numerous extension cords and large quantities of flammable materials.
New Trial Set For Man Charged In Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire
"I know that no family member will find this in any way acceptable, and I accept that responsibility," Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson said at the sentencing. "I wish I could in the stroke of a pen take away your deep loss and your sadness."
On Dec. 2, 2016, during an electronic music event at the warehouse — which doubled as both a performance space and residence for artists — the building caught fire, trapping people on an illegally constructed second floor.
Almena pleaded no contest in 2018, agreeing to a 12-year sentence, with the last three years under supervised release. But a judge rejected the plea agreement, saying that Almena had failed to express "full responsibility and remorse" for the deadly blaze.
The following year, Almena and Max Harris, an assistant at the warehouse, were put on trial together. Harris was acquitted , but a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Almena after three jurors were replaced for undisclosed reasons.
An Oakland police officer guards the area in front of the Ghost Ship in the aftermath of the fire. Ben Margot/AP hide caption
An Oakland police officer guards the area in front of the Ghost Ship in the aftermath of the fire.
In January this year, Almena pleaded guilty to all 36 counts in exchange for the sentence that was approved by the judge on Monday.
Prosecutors argued that Almena should be held criminally negligent for the deaths. They said that he was repeatedly warned about the dangers posed by the warehouse and that he ignored zoning laws that prohibited him from using the space for residential units.
Ahead of Monday's sentencing, Almena, 50, was already confined at home after being released from jail last year due to concerns over COVID-19. He was given credit for time served in jail as he awaited trial and for good behavior. As a result, Almena will serve only one and a half years of in-home confinement, wearing an ankle monitor.
He apologized to the victims and said he was "sick with shame."
"My shame cannot stand as any defense against what I am responsible for," Almena said in a statement read to the court by his attorney. "It is my fault, my terrible accumulation of error, that shaped and built a place so dangerous."
However, many relatives of the fire victims urged the judge to reject Almena's plea — aimed at avoiding a second trial.
"This lenient, slap-on-the-wrist sentence is vastly inappropriate for the crimes Derick Almena committed," the family of Sarah Hoda, one of the victims, said in a statement read to the court, according to The Associated Press.
The mother of victim Alex Ghassan called for the warehouse's owners and city agencies that enforce code and zoning regulations to be held accountable.
"I want my son's death not to go in vain," Emilie Grandchamps said.
Arts & Life
Ghost ship fire victims to receive $32.7 million settlement from city of oakland.
In response to a civil lawsuit filed by the families of the victims in 2018, the owners of the warehouse, Chor Ng and her children, who do not face criminal charges, alleged that an electrician who performed work at the Ghost Ship had lied about being a licensed contractor. They accused him of "catastrophically overloading" the building's electrical system.
Last summer, the city of Oakland agreed to pay $32.7 million — $23.5 million will go to families of people who died, and $9.2 million will go to Sam Maxwell, who survived the fire with lifelong injuries.
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Warehouse Tenant Pleads Guilty in Ghost Ship Fire That Killed 36
Some relatives of those killed in the Oakland warehouse fire in 2016 said they were outraged that prosecutors had a deal with the defendant that they said would allow him to avoid additional time behind bars.
By Michael Levenson and Concepción de León
The master tenant of a warehouse that had been converted into a ramshackle artists’ collective in Oakland, Calif., pleaded guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter on Friday, four years after a fire tore through the building, killing 36 people, court records show.
The master tenant, Derick Almena, entered the pleas in Alameda County Superior Court, avoiding a second trial after his first trial ended without a verdict in 2019.
Mr. Almena was one of two people who had been criminally charged in connection with the fire — the other was found not guilty in 2019 — and his pleas came after several twists in the case had infuriated victims’ families.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said Friday that it could not comment because of a gag order issued by Judge Trina Thompson. Mr. Almena’s lawyer, Tony Serra, also declined to comment, citing the gag order, his office said.
But Mary Alexander, a lawyer representing the families of 13 victims, said the families were outraged with the plea agreement, which she said would allow Mr. Almena to avoid additional time behind bars when he is sentenced on March 8. Mr. Almena was in jail for about three years after he was arrested and charged in connection with the fire; he was released on bail last year.
Ms. Alexander said prosecutors had told the families that although Mr. Almena would receive a nine-year prison sentence, he would be credited for time served and good behavior, which could allow him to serve the remainder of his sentence — roughly a year and several months — at home with an ankle bracelet. After that, he would be expected to complete three years of probation, Ms. Alexander said.
“This is really a crushing blow for the families,” Ms. Alexander said. “It’s not enough time behind bars. They feel like it’s not justice and they’re not holding him accountable for killing 36 beautiful young people.”
Colleen Dolan, whose daughter, Chelsea Faith Dolan, 33, was killed in the fire, said it was not fair to allow Mr. Almena to serve his sentence at home when many are already stuck at home because of the coronavirus.
“We’ve all been sitting at home,” she said. “We’ve all been living in isolation for a year. And this is supposed to be justice? It just isn’t.”
The warehouse, which housed an artists’ collective known as the Ghost Ship, burned during a late-night party on Dec. 2, 2016.
Many of the residents had been living there in violation of zoning laws, and the fire highlighted the failure of Oakland’s leaders to enforce building and fire codes. The inferno also became an emblem of the rising cost of living in the Bay Area, which led many artists and young people to seek shelter in the run-down building.
Prosecutors said Mr. Almena, who was the lease holder, had moved into the warehouse with his family in violation of the lease, the Oakland municipal code and the California state fire code.
He then began to sublet space to people inside the warehouse, and encouraged residents to create their own living spaces from unconventional materials he had collected, including dry wood, fence boards, shingles, window frames, wooden sculptures, tapestries, pianos, organs and rugs, prosecutors said.
The flammable material became kindling for the blaze, which quickly consumed the building. Many of the victims were attending a party on the second floor and were unable to escape down the staircase.
Mr. Almena and Max Harris , whom prosecutors described as Mr. Almena’s right hand in managing the warehouse, were arrested in 2017 and charged with 36 counts each of involuntary manslaughter.
In 2018, prosecutors announced that they had reached a plea deal with Mr. Almena and Mr. Harris, in which the defendants had agreed to plead no contest to the charges.
Under the deal, Mr. Almena would have served nine years in prison, and Mr. Harris six years. But a month later, after an outcry from families who condemned the deal as too lenient, a judge rejected the agreement, setting up a trial.
During closing arguments, prosecutors called the warehouse a “death trap” and dismissed the defense’s claims that arsonists might have been responsible for the blaze. Witnesses had testified that there were no smoke alarms or sprinklers, and that Mr. Almena once laughed off the suggestion that the warehouse was dangerously susceptible to fire.
After three months of testimony, Mr. Harris was acquitted in September 2019 , and the jury told Judge Thompson that they could not reach a verdict on the charges against Mr. Almena.
In July, the City of Oakland agreed to pay nearly $33 million to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of the victims.
Ms. Dolan said that victims’ families would be able to make impact statements on March 8, when Mr. Almena is sentenced. She said it was impossible, however, for the families to convey their “disappointment with this feeble plea bargain.”
Ms. Dolan said her daughter, an electronic musician who performed under the stage name Cherushii, had agreed to perform at the Ghost Ship to support a label mate on the night of the fire.
“She and all the other friends in this artistic community, whether it was artists or whether it was fans, they all showed up to support one of their own, and they all died,” Ms. Dolan said. “There’s no way we can put into words the deep, deep sorrow we feel.”
Concepción de León is a staff writer covering news and culture for the Books section. More about Concepción de León
Ghost Ship warehouse founder to receive plea deal in fire that claimed 36 lives
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The founder of the Oakland arts collective that became the site of one of the deadliest fires in California history will receive a plea deal in which he will serve less than 10 years in prison, ending a years-long legal saga that followed the deaths of 36 people inside the Ghost Ship warehouse.
Relatives of the victims were told Wednesday morning that Derick Almena will be offered a deal that would see him sentenced to nine years in state prison instead of facing a second trial on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to several relatives of victims who lost their lives in the 2016 blaze.
Almena was released from custody because of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, and prosecutors told victims he will receive credit for most of the nine-year sentence already since he had been jailed for nearly three years after his July 2017 arrest. Under the terms of the deal, Almena will be allowed to serve out the rest of his sentence under house arrest, the victims said.
Prosecutors had accused Almena of extreme negligence, arguing he turned the bare-bones East Oakland warehouse into a deathtrap through a series of illegal construction projects and shoddy electrical work. The structure was filled with pianos, tapestries, furniture and other items that acted as kindling when the blaze broke out during a concert.
Nearly 100 people were inside at the time, and prosecutors said Almena’s co-defendant, so-called creative director Max Harris, had closed off one of only two exit routes, forcing victims fleeing the fire to navigate a rickety staircase made of wooden pallets.
Almena and Harris were arrested in 2017, but their journey through the legal system has been marked by starts and stops that have often frustrated relatives of the victims. The pair were first offered a plea agreement in 2018: Almena and Harris would have been sentenced to nine and six years in prison, respectively, but would have served less time than that because they would receive credit for their time spent in county jail. But the deal was thrown out by an Alameda County Superior Court judge after several of the victims’ relatives argued the sentence was too light.
A four-month trial in 2019 ended with Harris being acquitted on all charges. But only 10 jurors voted to convict Almena, resulting in a mistrial. The case has hung in limbo ever since, as the pandemic has severely restricted court operations throughout California.
The plea deal still has to be accepted during a hearing scheduled for Jan. 22. A judge has previously issued a gag order in the case, so neither the district attorney’s office nor Almena’s defense attorney could comment on the plea agreement.
“I am depressed that such a light sentence was agreed upon,” Colleen Dolan, whose daughter Chelsea died in the blaze, wrote in an email to The Times. “Thirty-six people are dead because of Almena’s hubris.”
Grace Kim, who traveled from Washington, D.C., to attend the last trial on behalf of another victim, her cousin Ara Jo, said many of the parties on the call with prosecutors Wednesday were stunned to hear the terms of the deal offered by prosecutors.
“Most family members were in disbelief that for 36 lives lost and one person pretty much terminally ill for the rest of their lives, this is all Almena gets for disregarding safety standards and creating that firetrap,” Kim said.
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James Queally writes about crime and policing in Southern California, where he currently covers Los Angeles County’s criminal courts, the district attorney’s office and juvenile justice issues for the Los Angeles Times.
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The Strange Tale of the Mysterious Dutch Ghost Ship Ourang Medan
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In the early to mid-20th century, there were quite a few ways to become famous. But one sure way was to die under terrifying and mysterious circumstances on a ship in the middle of the ocean . That's how the crew of the SS Ourang Medan (and their dog) become infamous, with wide-open eyes and mouths twisted in horror. No one knows what happened to this ghost ship because shortly after it was discovered by a rescue boat, it blew up. At least, that was the story.
In 2019, the release of the Namco Entertainment video game, " Man of Medan ," reignited interest in the horrifying mystery of the Ourang Medan, but the stories of this ghost ship have been in circulation for 80 years.
"I remember first reading about the Ourang Medan story many years ago as a child. Still, it never seemed to be one of the bigger mysteries that always got covered," says history and true crime writer Michael East. People love sea mysteries, he says, and that explains why the events surrounding the loss of the Ourang Medan have been told and retold with different details in each retelling, every time ending in the horrifying death of her crew.
Final Words From the Crew
Where truth ends and myth begins, where did the story go wrong, the ghost ship that never was.
The more popular and entertaining versions of the story begin in 1947 or 1948 when a Dutch freighter named the Ourang Medan sent a desperate SOS . The radio broadcast was picked up by nearby ships including an American ship, the Silver Star, in the Straits of Malacca, between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The message said, simply:
When the Silver Star arrived, the Ourang Medan was eerily still. No steam billowed from her engines, no shouts for help could be heard. The search party boarded the ship and found the bodies of the crew. Their faces were contorted in fear, mouths stretched in eternal screams and their eyes were open wide as if turned to stone by Medusa herself. Even the ship's dog died mid-snarl. Whatever terrorized the crew to death was gone without a trace.
There was no time to investigate the deaths or recover the bodies because shortly after the rescue crew arrived on board, smoke was seen rising from the cargo hold of the Ourang Medan. With seconds to spare, the rescue crew made it back to the Silver Star before the Ourang Medan exploded, leaving nothing but a story for the newspapers.
Variations on the story of the fate of the Ourang Medan circulated for years and so, like other mysteries of the sea, it's unclear where the truth begins, and where it ends. The first problem with the story is that there is no evidence that a ship named the Ourang Medan ever existed, says East. "There is no shipping record of a vessel under that name. Nobody ever came forward to say they knew the ship or had served on her," he adds. "Equally, the inconsistent dates constantly stand out, as does the changing location."
Some stories reported the ship was near the Solomon Islands, while others placed it in the Marshall Islands. The earliest known mention of the sinking of the Ourang Medan was found by researcher Estelle Hargraves . She discovered quotes from British marine officers in 1940 published in British national newspapers during World War II . These articles describe a distress call from the ship requesting help from a medic and a warship. In this version, however, it's a British merchant ship, not an American one, that came to the rescue of the Ourang Medan and found only the dead crewmen (no dog in this version). The only consistency in this telling compared to later versions is that the ship did explode, and nothing was recovered.
East points out that the pivotal character, a reporter named Silvio Scherli, may explain where the truth went sideways, "The [original] reports became embellished by others, primarily Silvio Scherli, who was looking to profit from the story."
In 1948, a Dutch-Indonesian newspaper, De locomotief , described the Ourang Medan sailing from a Chinese port to Costa Rica in an attempt to keep its illegal cargo a secret. This covert operation was divulged by the only remaining survivor of the ship, a German, who was found by a missionary washed up on Taongi Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The German eventually succumbed to his injuries, but not before revealing the ship was carrying sulphuric acid. The cargo, he said, was mishandled and fumes escaped their containers silently killing the crew, and ultimately causing the ship to explode. The Italian missionary who discovered the survivor told this story to none other than the writer, Silvio Scherli.
What’s interesting is that Scherli was based in Trieste in 1940, the place where the original 1940 report was made. No one can be certain that it was Scherli who made the 1940 report, reporting on it again in 1948, but if you believe in ghost ships, you can believe in humankind’s capability to deceive.
Over time, the story of the Ourang Medan was retold and new storytellers embellished different details. Dates, locations and even the fates of the crew twist and turn with each new telling. Did dangerous chemicals kill the crew? Was there a survivor? What's more likely, says East, is the Ourang Medan never actually existed except in the imagination of the storytellers and their eager audiences.
"I believe a ship sank in mysterious circumstances, but it was likely during the Second World War as per the 1940 reports. However, it was likely never named Ourang Medan, and the journalist Silvio Scherli got hold of the story, filling in the gaps in what he'd heard with his own entertaining embellishments," says East. "There is often a truth hidden deep in most myths, but people's need to tell a better story takes over, meaning the truth is lost."
A "ghost ship" can be one of two things: either a phantom ship with undead or paranormal crew, like the Flying Dutchman , or a ship found with a dead crew or no crew. The most famous of the latter is the Mary Celeste , discovered in 1872. On the ship with a six-month supply of food and alcohol, the entire crew's belongings, a missing lifeboat and no sign of the crew. They were never found.
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